Gregory Lee Johnson was convicted of desecrating a flag in violation of Texas law; a conviction which questions ones guaranteed First Amendment, constitutional rights. Johnson’s involvement in a political demonstration in Dallas, lead him to express his political concerns with the nations leaders and governmental policies.
The State of Texas’ conviction of Johnson was carried out due to Johnson’s conduct, a physically expressive act, rather than a written or spoken one and based on two criteria: a responsibility to preserve the integrity of the flag representing the strength, pride and unity of our nation and whether Johnson’s actions threatened societal order and peace. The Supreme Court viewed Johnson’s form of political expression did not cause societal disorder or disrupt the peace. There were no violent outbreaks, either verbal or physical, from members of Johnson’s protest, or other citizens, who may view flag burning as a distasteful and ungrateful.However, the State of Texas has already acknowledged this fact.
The State ruled that regardless of the lack of evidence that Johnson’s actions have threatened societal order and public peace, on account there were no such occurrences, flag burning has the potential to do so. The State has concluded that flag burning could: first, stir up people’s emotions enough, possibly resulting in intense public arguments, violent physical disputes, or riots, and second, serves as an invitation for others to take political protests o the next level, which could be dangerous.The States decision bought up two questions, is flag burning as a form of political protest an agreeable method of practicing ones First Amendment rights, or an attempt to persuade others to take the act beyond the rights of citizens to more serious and dangerously, harmful, acts of protest? , and does the State have the right to claim that Johnson’s conduct had the potential or indented to cause a violent encounter with passionate opposition to flag burning, even if he act did not do so? The Supreme Court said that, “Johnson is an individual, responsible for his own actions, not the actions of others.He has chosen to practice his First Amendment rights, by expressing his disapproval of government leadership and polices, by publicly burning and American flag. It is this courts decision that Johnson has not intended to encourage others to take more drastic approaches of protesting government. Johnson can not be accountable for wrongful impressions of his intentions.
The State’s conviction is therefore unjust, based on its claim that Johnson has threatened societal order and peace. The State’s conviction of Johnson, based on a responsibility to preserve the integrity of the flag as a representation of national unity and pride, brings about several questions involving the meaning of America itself, and what our nation stands for. The State concerns involve the message perceived by others, at the actions of Johnson.If a citizen can publicly destroy the symbol representing our nations pride and unity without consequences, then the State has concluded that it will be perceived that this pride and unity does not exist, having a negative impact on American society.
The First Amendment guarantees the right of free expression, not just positive expression consenting the government policies and our leaders, but negative expression condoning both as well. To convict Johnson for publicly burning a flag as a form of political protest, would convey an even more dangerous message to the American people, than to respect his right to do so.The message being that it is wrong and punishable by law to express ones beliefs by destroying the very symbol of freedom our nation claims we possess the right to express. Government does not have the right to prohibit expression, nor the right to enforce its views on its citizens.
If the flag is to be used as a symbol for everything great about America, it is the right of individuals, who disagree with politics of the time, to use that symbol as a sign of their concerns. The American flag holds an undeniable place in the hearts of its citizens, as in mine.It is a symbol of all that makes us proud of who we are and what this country has accomplished. However, the State of Texas’ conviction of Gregory Lee Johnson is without evidence on the charge of Johnson’s intent to promote societal disorder and disrupt peace. The State has also contradicted itself by taking the responsibility of protecting the symbolism of the flag, a responsibility which has unconstitutionally convicted Johnson, denying him the First Amendment right of free expression.